7 When John’s disciples had gone, Jesus spoke to the crowds about John: “What did you go out to the wilderness to see? A stalk blowing in the wind? 8 What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in refined clothes? Look, those who wear refined clothes are in royal palaces. 9 What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 He is the one of whom it is written: Look, I’m sending my messenger before you, who will prepare your way before you.
11 “I assure you that no one who has ever been born is greater than John the Baptist. Yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
At Women’s Bible Study last Thursday (which is such a highlight during my week!), we spent a great deal of time talking about verse 11 of this text. Recently, in both devotionals and sermons, we’ve talked quite a bit about John the Baptist. We’ve talked about the story of his elderly parents. We’ve talked about the miracle of his birth. And we’ve talked about his place preparing the way for the coming Christ. He’s extremely important, and loved, and blessed and special.
So, what’s up with verse 11?
The birth of Jesus, God’s breaking into this chaotic world leveled the playing field. The inequities of power and marginalization still remain on earth due to human sin, yet the kingdom of heaven has a different set of rules and order. Yes, John the Baptist was called from birth to do something great and meaningful in this world (and boy, did he throw himself right into doing just that!), but we know many texts about “the last will be first” and all of that.
Here, Jesus is challenging his followers, who may not have expected the great John the Baptist to look or sound the way he did, but is challenging them to both uphold John’s significance, yet remember that grace is evenly distributed. We’re challenged to remember that John is still just a man, and his service and good deeds do not make him any more loved by God than anyone else.
by Rachel Callender
For Pondering & Prayer
What is your first reaction to verse 11? Now step back and think more about what you know about God, and allow that to live in this statement from Jesus. How does that change its meaning for you?
Prayer: Holy Lord, we give thanks for Your love for us all. There was only one John the Baptist, yet you work in each of our lives too. Use us for Your work in the world. Amen.